Notre-Dame de Bangui Cathedral – Bangui, Central African Republic

Built in the early 1900s, Notre-Dame de Bangui Cathedral is a large red brick church built in the French colonial style. Above the three-door entrance is a white plaster icon of the Virgin Mary looking out from a niche. The interior of the cathedral features a crucifix and four massive colored glass windows. The symmetrical double-tower design is reminiscent of that of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Although it now has nearly 900,000 inhabitants, the Central African Republic‘s largest town was established as a small outpost in 1889. A decree of 1906 transformed the small post into the capital of the French colony. Catholicism was introduced in the newly established colony at the same time, with the arrival of Monsignor Augouard in 1893. Augouard founded the Saint-Paul mission which opened its doors in 1894. A few years later, Notre-Dame cathedral in Bangui was built in the center of the so-called “European city”. The cathedral, along with the majority of other religious buildings in Bangui, was built with reddish-colored fired bricks.

Central African Republic home to approximately 2.9 million Christians today, of whom about a third are Roman Catholics. Many of these conversions occurred when Catholic missionaries focused their efforts on the Central African Republic after World War I.

Since its declaration of independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic has experienced a series of conflicts. Political turmoil in the 1990s prompted then Archbishop Joachim Ndayen to start holding peace talks in the cathedral in 1996. Later in 1999, Pope John Paul II visited Bangui and spoke of the “difficult and complex situation” the country is facing.

Since 2012, the Central African Republic has been in the grip of a civil war to partly by tensions between Muslim and Christian groups. In November 2015, Pope Francis visited the cathedral as well as the nearby Grand Mosque of Bangui, offering a message of peace and resilience.

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